After spending a long election day in the former Marion T. Morse (MTM) elementary school gymnasium, I started thinking about kindergarten. The year I started, 1969, the last wave of the Baby Boom was busting out the seams of every Lisbon school building. Some students attended makeshift classrooms set up in the library, while the high school operated on shifts. My kindergarten took place in the middle of the MTM gymnasium. Two tall chalkboards divided the space and separated us from the rest of the gymnasium’s activities.
It didn’t matter to me; it was just a half-day and it was only a short skip from home. If I was tired after class, my grandparents’ house was on the way and I could stop and rest on the porch. I probably talk, talk, talked to Nana about what happened at school. If I didn’t stop, she would be in the kitchen window waving to me as I passed by.
Digging around in my personal archives last weekend, I found my kindergarten report card. As I reviewed the major categories of my early education on the inside of the card, I laughed at the remaining vision of my little self in my mind’s eye.
My kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Beganny, rated me highly on almost all categories. I had no social phobias. I wasn’t “shy among others” or “aggressive with others,” nor did I give “up easily.” Mrs. Beganny reported that little Miss Baumer “shows willingness to work with others, willing to take turns, completes work started, shows emotional control,” and “follows directions.”
My development in the use of crayons, paints, scissors and clay was consistently high. And I was getting ready to read.
Based on the inside of the report card, Little Miss Baumer was “at a stage of development that will permit successful work at the next higher grade level.”
My recollection of kindergarten is different from Mrs. Beganny’s. All I remember was the trouble at “Circle Time” which was documented on the back of the card. Her first “trimester” note says:
“Julie-Ann does very well in all her work. She is inclined to whisper or talk to her neighbors during Circle Time, but she is doing much better than at the beginning of the year.”
Was it once or was it every day? Or was it once in a while, or maybe once or twice a week? All I remember was talking to Jeff Drottar during Circle Time. Why couldn’t I? He lived up the street, he went to Holy Family Church too, and his mother was crowned 1951 Winter Carnival Queen with my father, the 1951 Winter Carnival King. Jeff and I had a lot to talk about. What Circle Time conversation could more important than ours?
Mrs. Beganny didn’t see it that way.
Jeff and I were whispering during Circle Time and Mrs. Beganny disciplined me by making me move my chair to the middle of the circle. I did not give up easily. From the middle of the circle, I was gesturing and I kept trying to talk to Jeff, who had the good sense to fold his hands together obediently and ignore me. After a few minutes of this, Mrs. Beganny took my hand and sternly walked me to the outside of our classroom’s chalkboard wall.
I had been cast out!
I’m sure I started crying. By the end of it, I was probably weeping, with snot running out of my nose. I wanted to be back in the circle. I wanted to talk. And I didn’t want to get in trouble when I got home.
I don’t remember how it all ended, but it’s the only memory I have from kindergarten. At the end of the day, I was free to go and wave to my Nana. There were no “lock downs,” like the ones which happen on a regular basis today. I guess they plan these “lock down drills” now, from what I heard at the recent school board meeting I attended.
Maybe, though, that’s why my mother told me I had to “behave myself” at the polls. Maybe the Marion T. Morse school gymnasium brings back troublesome memories for her too. Why, maybe we’re both scarred! I’ll have to ask her about it this weekend while we’re out making the merry round of holiday bazaars and talking.
Talk, talk, talk.
Sure, the incident killed my little spirit for a day or two; who knows what I’d be doing today if I’d been left to my own incessant talking devices and not exercised some emotional control. Maybe I’d be a Tee Vee celebrity with a TALK show. Regardless of what actually happened, it all worked itself out by the second “trimester” when Mrs. Beganny wrote “She does much better at Circle Time.”